• Start: Needham Lake
  • End: Needham Lake
  • Country: England
  • County: Suffolk
  • Type: Country
  • Nearest pub:
  • Ordnance Survey: OS Explorer No 211
  • Difficulty: Medium
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Cyril Francis leads us on a winter walk along the Gipping to Needham Lake

Cyril Francis leads us on a winter walk along the Gipping to Needham Lake

Starting from the popular attraction of Needham Lake, this first walk of 2011 contains a mixture of river path, town and countryside. After a delightful stretch beside the River Gipping, you then pass through Needham High Street, complete with lots of historic buildings and independent shops. Later on, the walk heads up the Causeway path towards Barking, afterwards looping back towards the Lake.

Start the walk with the lake on the left. Pass a wooden sculpture and crossover an arched bridge. Afterwards turn left to join the Gipping Valley Footpath and continue ahead beside the River Gipping.
In terms of width, depth and general appearance, nowadays the meandering waterway is a far cry from the early 19th century when horse-drawn barges made their way to Ipswich and Stowmarket with cargoes ranging from slate, coal, manure and gun cotton.
Keep following the path and reach the entrance to Wildwood, where details of the latest bird sightings are listed. Further ahead, the path passes some properties sited the other side of the river and leads to a kissing gate. Pass through the gate, bear right and continue on a narrow surfaced path.
After about 50 yards leave the path and veer left across a grassy area to access some steps in the bank. Turn left at the top to join the lower end of Hawks Mill Street. Pass Hawks Mill, a former watermill built in 1884 and now converted into flats. Cross the hump-back back bridge in front and shortly afterwards climb some steps to continue on a raised footway.
Turn left at the next T-junction and continue down the High Street. Pass the church of St John the Baptist, with its fine double hammerbeam roof, and cross the road in front of the old town hall (now an antiques centre) to join The Causeway. Its said the Causeway name is a corruption of corpse-way, a reminder of when the dead of Needham Market (formerly part of Barking) were taken along this route for burial at Barking.
Follow the Causeway path, initially with houses either side, to reach some metal barriers. Continue on a much narrower path now and cross over Quinton Road to find an old ascending earth lane.
With mature hedgerows either side of the path, continue ahead and pass Bloomfields home of Needham Market FC on the left. Cross a concrete culvert bridge where the path curves left and carry on to reach some metal railings. At this point turn left to cross a bridge over a ditch and afterwards continue on a cart track marked on the map as The Drift (Track).
Views over the Gipping Valley gradually disappear as the path starts to gently descend. Cross over Quinton Road once more and then head down a surfaced path that later leads to School Street.
Keep straight ahead and enter an alleyway with a brick wall running on the right.
Go through a pub yard to emerge beside the High Street. Cross the B1113, enter Station Yard and make for the far left corner.
Go slightly downhill and look for a sign listing a cattle tunnel of 1846. Enter the tunnel, and bend your back for a few paces as you pass underneath the main line railway. Turn right into a grassy area and head parallel with the railway line towards the lake in front, back to your departure point.


How to get there: From the Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich directions make for Needham Market and follow the tourist signs to the Lake, located beside the B1078.
Start and park: Needham Lake
Distance: 2.5 miles
Refreshments: Pubs and eateries in Needham Market. Picnic tables at
the Lake
Terrain: Mostly good paths, some short uphill stretches and no stiles. Suitable for families and dogs on a lead
Best map: OS Explorer No 211
Public toilets: At the Lake
Public transport: Call 0871 200 2233 for details

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